Malaria and dengue are both mosquito-borne. On World Malaria Day 2024, know the differences between malaria and dengue.

Malaria and dengue are two common diseases associated with mosquitoes. Both are mosquito-borne diseases, and can cause fever, headache and muscle aches. Prevention strategies for both these diseases include vector control measures such as eliminating mosquito breeding sites and using protective measures like insect repellents. If not taken seriously, they can even turn deadly. Even though they are similar in some ways, malaria and dengue are different. On World Malaria Day, which falls on April 25 April, we tell you the differences between malaria and dengue.

What is malaria?

Malaria, a mosquito-borne infectious disease, is caused by the Plasmodium parasite. It is transmitted to humans through the bites of Anopheles mosquitoes that are infected, says general physician Dr Aarif Hussain Bhat.

A woman feels itchy due to malaria or dengue
Malaria is a mosquito-borne infectious disease. Image courtesy: Freepik

What is dengue fever?

Dengue fever, caused by the dengue virus, is a viral infection transmitted by the Aedes mosquito, especially Aedes aegypti.

What are the differences between malaria and dengue?

It is true that both malaria and dengue are mosquito-borne diseases, but they are transmitted by different species of mosquitoes. Here are some of the differences between the two diseases:

1. Symptoms

Malaria symptoms usually include fever, chills, sweats, headache, muscle aches, nausea, and vomiting. Dengue symptoms are sudden onset of fever, severe headache, pain behind the eyes, joint and muscle pain, rash, and mild bleeding.

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2. Causes

Malaria is caused by the Plasmodium parasite, transmitted when the infected Anopheles mosquitoes bite people. Dengue is caused by the dengue virus, transmitted through the bite of infected Aedes mosquitoes.

3. Risk factors

Risk factors for malaria include travel to areas where malaria is endemic, lack of preventive measures such as bed nets or insect repellent, says the expert. Risk factors for dengue include living in or travelling to areas where dengue is prevalent, inadequate mosquito control measures, and lack of immunity to the virus.

4. Diagnosis

Malaria diagnosis involves microscopic examination of blood smears for the presence of Plasmodium parasites or rapid diagnostic tests detecting specific antigens. Dengue diagnosis often involves blood tests to detect the virus or antibodies.

5. Treatment

Malaria treatment usually involves antimalarial medications such as Chloroquine, artemisinin-based combination therapies (ACTs), or other drugs depending on the species of Plasmodium and drug resistance patterns. Dengue treatment focuses on supportive care to relieve symptoms, as there is no specific antiviral treatment available as of now.

A woman having fever due to malaria or dengue
Malaria is deadlier than dengue. Image courtesy: Freepik

Is malaria deadlier than dengue?

Malaria tends to be deadlier than dengue, particularly in areas where there is limited access to healthcare and in cases of severe malaria. Malaria can lead to complications such as cerebral malaria, severe anemia, respiratory distress, or organ failure, which can be fatal if not treated promptly. While dengue can also be severe and lead to complications such as dengue hemorrhagic fever or dengue shock syndrome, the mortality rate is generally lower compared to severe malaria.

Globally in 2022, there were 608000 malaria deaths in 85 nations, according to the World Health Organization. Dengue cases have shot up from 505430 in 2000 to 5.2 million in 2019, and since the beginning of 2023 ongoing transmission, there were more than 6.5 million cases. Over 7300 deaths related to dengue were reported, as per the WHO.

How to prevent malaria and dengue?

It all begins with mosquito control. So, eliminate standing water where mosquitoes can breed. Use insecticide-treated bed nets, and apply mosquito repellents containing picaridin, suggests the expert.

You can also do the following:

  • Wear long-sleeved tops and pants, especially during peak mosquito activity times like in the evening.
  • Make use of screens on your windows and doors to stop mosquitoes from entering your home.
  • Implement community-based mosquito control programs and raise awareness about the importance of preventive measures to help reduce the transmission of both malaria and dengue.

Both malaria and dengue are mosquito-borne diseases that can turn fatal, making it important to take necessary steps if you notice the symptoms.

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